1887
Volume 4, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 2406-419x
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4246
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Abstract

This paper presents a linguistic analysis of episode boundaries in narratives produced from a 24-page picture book by German and English speakers. We investigate the development of form/function relationships involved in the discursive organization of narratives, attempting to bring together research traditions that typically consider the linguistic structuring and the conceptualization of narratives as two separate domains. Focussing in our analysis on the linguistic realization of discourse boundaries, we integrate a qualitative and quantitative approach to the exploration of (1) the relationship between the existence and commonality (“availability”) of particular markers (e.g., aspect) in a given language and the structure that narratives take, and (2) the developmental patterns in the use of several formal devices for serving discourse (i.e., narrative) functions. Episode boundaries were identified with an “importance” judgment task. These ratings were used guiding the analyses of the narrative productions of 72 subjects in three age groups (5 and 9 years, and adults) and two languages (English and German). The findings suggest that, in general, event boundaries ranking higher in the episode hierarchy are more clearly marked than events that are seen to be less important. Further, comparing the English and German narratives, the availability of devices in a language can influence the explicitness with which episode boundaries are marked. Lastly, developmental analyses suggest that children in both language groups first mark episode boundaries in the service of highlighting and intensifying locally-defined discourse level units. The use of these markers evolves toward packaging larger discourse units, resulting in a global structuring of the episodic configuration of the narrative whole. These cross-linguistic and developmental patterns suggest that marking episode boundaries involves a complex interplay between two kinds of narrative orientations: (a) the horizontal alignment of linearly-ordered narrative events, and (b) the vertical organization of events along a hierarchical axis of narrative structure.

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1990-01-01
2019-12-06
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